The Defense Department's online prescription drug database, the PharmacoEconomic Center, was one of nearly 20 military, civilian and university websites recently attacked by hackers, according to reports from Imperva, a data-security firm based in Redwood Shores, Calif. The PharmacoEconomic Center site was still down as of Tuesday morning.
The PharmacoEconomic Center has a range of responsibilities, including coordinating pharmacy benefits and performing clinical-outcomes and cost-effectiveness research.
Researchers at Imperva who track hacker activity noticed information about the breach in a hacker forum, said Rob Rachwald, Imperva's director of security strategy, in a telephone interview.
"My personal belief is that the hacker was trying to sell admin rights to these websites in order to give other hackers a platform to launch further attacks," Rachwald said.
The hacker offered full control of the site and access to its information for $399, according to Imperva. Additionally, the hacker also offered to sell personally identifiable information from the sites for $20 per 1,000 records, according to a post on Imperva's site.
The attacks show the vulnerability of the public sector, even as the private sector has successfully ramped up security in the past year and prevented many cyberattacks, Rachwald said. "The government is still wandering in the forest, trying to figure out what to do about cybersecurity," he said.
The Defense Department could not be reached for comment.